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The Three Basic Humors (Dosha)

The Three Basic Humors (Dosha)  

The five elements are believed to form three basic energies, called humors, in the human body. These three humors are 

  1. Vaata, made up of space and air;
  2. Pitta, made up of fire and water; 
  3. Kapha, made up of water and earth;

They are collectively called Tridoshas and they control the basic functions of the body.

These three humors are present in every cell, tissue, and organ of our body. They are responsible for the huge variety of individual differences and preferences, and they influence all that we are, all that we think, and all we do, from our choices of food, drink, and dress to our modes of relating to others. They govern the biological and psychological processes of our body, mind, and consciousness. They regulate the creation, maintenance, and destruction of bodily tissue, and the elimination of waste products. They also govern our emotions – they are responsible for the smile or frown on our face. When in balance, they generate noble qualities such as understanding, compassion, and love – and these contribute to good health. When their balance is disturbed by stress, improper diet, environmental conditions, or other factors, they can give rise to negative emotions such as anger, fear, and greed – and these contribute to bad health.


Vaata is the energy that regulates all movement in the body, both mental and physiological. It is responsible for breathing, blinking of our eyes, beating of hearts, and all movement in cells and cell membranes. All impulses in the vast network of our nervous system are governed by Vaata. When Vaata is in balance, it promotes creativity and flexibility and evokes feelings of freshness, lightness, happiness, and joy. Out of balance, Vaata produces fear, nervousness, anxiety, even tremors, and spasms. 

Pitta is the principle of energy of heating or metabolism. Pitta governs all biochemical changes that take place within our bodies, regulating digestion, absorption, assimilation, and body temperature. From the standpoint of modern biology, Pitta comprises enzymes and amino acids that play a major role in metabolism. Pitta regulates body temperature through the chemical transformation of food. It promotes appetite and vitality. Not only food is metabolized by us. Every impression coming in from the outside is also processed or “digested” and made a part of us. Thus Pitta (when in balance) promotes intelligence and understanding and is crucial in learning. When out of balance, Pitta may arouse fiery emotions such as frustration, anger, hatred, criticism, and jealousy. 

Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s structure, the glue that holds the cells together. Kapha also supplies the liquid needed for the life of our cells and body systems. It lubricates our joints, moisturizes the skin, helps to heal wounds, and maintains immunity. Kapha provides strength, vigor, and stability. Psychologically, excess Kapha is responsible for emotions of attachment, greed, lust, and envy. When Kapha is in balance, it expresses itself in tendencies toward love, calmness, and forgiveness. 

Together, these three doshas govern all the body’s metabolic activities. Kapha promotes anabolism, the process of creating and repairing cells. Pitta regulates metabolism, which is digestion and absorption. Vaata triggers catabolism, the necessary deterioration process in which larger molecules are broken down into smaller ones. 

The whole of life’s journey is divided into three major milestones. From birth to age 16 is the Kapha age. From age 16 to age 50 is the Pitta age, and from age 50 to age 90-100 is the Vaata age.